HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: IDENTIFYING EVIDENCE OF CURTAINS IN MEDIEVAL MANUSCRIPTS IN THE MORGAN LIBRARY & MUSEUM
Building on an important study of curtains in medieval manuscripts by Christine Sciacca, this essay examines the physical evidence of lost curtains in nearly forty manuscripts in the Morgan Library & Museum. Aside from a few examples in which manuscript curtains survive in situ, most have been lost. However, important physical evidence about them remains. This essay provides a brief introduction to the concept of curtains in medieval manuscripts to help us imagine how curtains would have looked and functioned in manuscripts. Next, extant curtains in the Morgan’s collection are examined as a framework for interpreting the evidence of lost curtains. Working from the Morgan’s examples, the essay then provides a typology of the physical features suggestive of lost curtains and discusses the challenges to interpreting this evidence. Finally, research areas that could be advanced by systematic study of curtain evidence in manuscripts are identified through examples from the Morgan collection. The primary aim is to help scholars recognize and describe curtain evidence so that they may more thoroughly document these features in manuscripts, thereby contributing to object-based interpretation of manuscripts by art historians, codicologists, and conservators alike.
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